Interview with Carol Saller from University of Chicago Press

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the upcoming international editors conference that is being hosted by the Editors’ Association of Canada this month. I’ve been interviewing some of the conference speakers in advance of the event.

Subversive Copy EditorI’m excited to be able to share with you my interview with keynote speaker Carol Saller, who is well known in the North American editing community. She is the editor of the online Chicago Manual of Style Q&A and the author of the fantastic book The Subversive Copy Editor. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

(For those of you who are not familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style, it’s the standard style guide used by most American trade book publishers.)

I expect things to get a bit hectic over the next couple of weeks while the conference is going on, so I may not be able to post. I’ll be sure to share with you any tidbits that I pick up from the event!



© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015

25 thoughts on “Interview with Carol Saller from University of Chicago Press

  1. I wasn’t sure whether to comment there or here — but that was a great interview Sue. I was surprised to find out editors like to be edited, I would have thought it would be tough to relinquish that control.
    Editors must have to do such a balancing act, working out when to edit, and when something should be left alone because it’s part of the author’s voice. It must be so easy to over edit and turn the text quite clinical in its correctness!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Celine! Commenting here works for me. 🙂

      Some editors are better with being edited than others. I would think it depends on how closely the two people agree on what “good editing” means. It’s like that saying about doctors making the worst patients. 🙂

      And yes, it is a balancing act – knowing how much to edit, and when. When I took my course in substantive and stylistic editing, the instructor was always encouraging us to plunge in and not be afraid to edit – most people were hesitant to touch things, which is probably a better place to start than thinking you know more than the author. Sometimes editors bleed the life out of text when they try to “correct” everything, which is unfortunate. There is no one right way to edit anything, and the author’s preferences should definitely be taken into account!


      1. I guess that comes with experience, and maybe with experience with a given writer? If you work with someone a few times, you probably get to know their voice and their style, and then it becomes easier to know when to touch and when to leave alone?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It certainly helps to have a long-term relationship with a writer, where there is more understanding and more trust involved. But I think any editor can show understanding and care when approaching an author’s writing – like checking first before making changes to an author’s obvious style preference or correcting any inconsistencies.


  2. Interesting interview! It is nice to read about the challenges of editing. I still ponder what Carol Saller said about writing ” the larger part of writing consists of self-editing — or at least it should”. At first, I was not sure of it, the more I think of it and exercise it…..probably it is right…..
    thanks for sharing tidbits of the event with your readers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nicole! It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it, that rewriting and editing your own work can take up more time than the initial act of putting words on a page. Some people love that part of the process, and others can’t stand it.

      I’ll do my best to find some good tips!


  3. I’ll never know the number of times I had to refer to the online Chicago Manual of Style throughout university for the countless essays I had to write, but let me tell you it was a lot. Great interview! It was interesting to read about some of the wacky questions that the Q&A receives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I found out that I would be interviewing Carol, that’s the first thing that popped into my head – “I’ll bet she sees some really crazy things.” I just had to ask about it. 🙂

      That’s interesting that you used CMOS for essays – a lot of students at university end up using other styles, like MLA.


      1. Yes, that’s odd. MLA is normally used for research papers, and it was the only style mandated in my undergrad classes (at Queen’s) – for both History and English. I guess it comes down to the preferences of the department heads. Ugh.

        I think Chicago is more useful in “real life” after school, since it’s the guide of choice for most books. I can’t say I’ve written a research paper after graduation. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Brenna! Clearly you started me on the right path. 🙂 I find interviewing to be such a rewarding process. More conversations will definitely be coming up in future posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That was an excellent interview, Sue! I loved hearing an editor’s side to the editing process, and was particularly thankful for your second question––sometimes I worry about authors who don’t want to change something that “should” be changed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it, Alex! I love Carol’s take on flexibility. In the realm of self-publishing, I think the author should have the final say on how they want things to look. When it’s traditional publishing, editors need to balance the concerns of the publisher with the preferences of the author, so it’s definitely more challenging.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A terrific look over the other side of the fence, Sue. And as always, you asked some thought-provoking questions.
    I’ve certainly come to appreciate the depth and breadth of knowledge a fine editor needs to possess, and how much I’ve come to rely upon their savvy skills and well-developed tact.
    I hope you return from the conference filled to the brim with new friends, new contacts and newfound enthusiasm for a subject that continues to inspire you. You have done wonders to fill the dusty bowl of my knowledge basin regarding many a writing-related topic, and I will continue to look to you as a great source of information as well as illumination.
    I wish you a wonderful trip!

    Liked by 1 person

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